Taiwanese businessman Samuel Yin at the Tan prize announcement press conference. (c) Reuters

Taiwanese tycoon establishes ‘Asian Nobel Prizes’

Samuel Yin, a Taiwanese businessman, has recently announced during a press conference in Taipei the founding of the Tang Prize, a foundation that aims to reward major achievements in the fields of science in a similar manner to the European Nobel Prize, only with bigger cash prizes, while also supporting research.

With an estimated personal wealth of around $3 billion, Yin made a fortune in real estate, finance, and retail investments. So far, he has set some $102 million for the foundations in hope of stimulating and rewarding important advancements in science.  Academia Sinica, which oversees Taiwan’s premier research labs, will be responsible for nominating and judging  prize recipients worth $1.36 million in each of four fields –  sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology, and rule of law – with an additional $341,000 assigned to support recipient-proposed plans for research and talent development in related fields for 5 years. This amounts to $1.7 million for each prize, well over the Nobel Prize, which for 2012 was about $1.2 million.

“I hope that the prize will encourage more research that is beneficial to the world and humankind, promote Chinese culture, and make the world a better place,” Yin said.

The Tang Prize is named after the famous Tang Chinese dynasty that ruled the ancient Chinese empire for 1,000 years and is synonymous to national cultural and scientific landmarks. Yin admires the dynasty and considers it to be the golden age for Chinese civilization, hence his tribute. This is the latest in a slew of efforts made by Yin to consolidate science and education in China, following heavy investments.

The first prize announcement is slated for July 2014. The Tang Prize, however, isn’t the singular science philanthropic event. For instance, the Shaw Prize, which annually confers $1 million for work in astronomy, life science and medicine, and mathematical sciences was established in Hong Kong in 2002. In Japan, there are three other major science prizes (Kyoto Prize, Japan Prize, Blue Planet Prize), that hand out about $550,000 to each winner annually.

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